Never Stop Working Hard, Standing Out, and Reaching Higher

There isn’t a day that goes by where I am not amazed by where life has led me. From humble beginnings as a five-year-old refugee from Vietnam, lost at sea, I am now, as chief commercial officer at Honeywell, navigating the way for a company with a proud industrial heritage to explore new horizons as a growing software leader.

Many might feel hemmed in by their difficult circumstances. Life can be full of unexpected obstacles. Whatever your background, by meeting these challenges head on, you might be surprised by what you can achieve.

With a fresh start in Australia, my parents, whose once middle-class life in Vietnam had erupted into chaos, slowly made their way back through sheer hard work. I found that limits are only those you set yourself, no matter what your setbacks.

The recipe is simple:

First, hard work is key. There’s no replacement for putting in those hard hours daily towards competence in your field. Talent can take you only so far—it’s hard work that can take you as far as you want to go. Cutting corners means you’ll only be cheating yourself. And when you encounter those rough seas, never give up.

Second, make yourself remarkable. Find an area in which you’ll be distinctive. If you work hard at only doing what everyone else is doing, it’s harder for you to show where you can provide unique value in your work. Find those fresh insights, drawn from your learnings and experiences, and use them not just to identify problems, but to solve them.

Third, don’t get comfortable. Don’t stay in the imaginary safety of a mid-level harbor; instead, lead by taking smart risks. Give your hard-won competence a voice and communicate it to others, even if they disagree. Make an intelligent comment or ask a question in the first fifteen minutes of a discussion and you immediately stand out as someone who is engaged, who cares and can get something done about it. Learn to help others, starting by advocating for yourself. Do negotiate for better opportunities, and use those new challenges to learn and advance your competence.

Above all, take a fresh mindset to every new role. Don’t keep doing the same job you did before, because every new opportunity is an uncharted ocean, just waiting to be explored. It’s time to put your name on the map.